These days, store shelves have never seemed so chock-full of snacks. But when it comes to finding the healthy options, it can be increasingly hard to navigate.
You need something that gives you a quick, natural burst of energy, fiber, and protein. The answer? Go "nuts" about it.
From almonds to Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts, nuts are cultivated around the world and have become one of the most popular foods on the planet.
Best of all, they're full of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and high-quality vegetable protein. They're also dairy- and gluten-free, and contain healthful polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. What’s more, they're a satiating food that may actually help suppress appetite.
Among the options, walnuts and almonds seem to be the rock stars, drawing the most fans and are easily available everywhere. Now, scientists are scrambling to crack open the many health benefits of these nuts. So which one — walnuts or almonds — wins in the contest for the best overall benefits? Let’s take a look at the research:
The Benefits of Walnuts
Walnuts are often ranked the top nut for having both more healthful antioxidants, called polyphenols, and a higher antioxidant potency than other nuts. They are also the only nut that contains a significant source of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid with heart and brain-health benefits. Here's what else this champion nut can help with:
1. They boost brain power.
Research at UCLA found that eating walnuts daily may improve performance on cognitive function tests. The benefits included enhanced memory, improved concentration, and higher data processing speed.
2. They reduce cardiovascular risk.
Studies suggest that consumption of whole walnuts or their extracted oil can reduce cardiovascular risk, by helping HDL — good cholesterol — perform more effectively in transporting and removing excess cholesterol from the body.
3. They protect against nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Australian researchers discovered that walnuts have protective properties for treating nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
4. They help bone health.
Walnuts contain plant-based omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which may have a protective effect on bone health, according to a team of Penn State researchers.
5. They fight against Alzheimer's disease.
A study conducted by the Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities in New York showed that walnuts can improve memory deficits and learning skills and may also have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk, delaying the onset, and slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease.
6. They can improve male fertility.
UCLA researchers discovered that eating 2.5 ounces of walnuts per day improves semen quality in healthy young men.
7. They protect arteries against short-term damage.
One study showed that consuming a handful of raw walnuts along with meals high in saturated fat appears to limit the ability of the harmful fat to damage arteries. Walnuts helped to preserve the elasticity and flexibility of the arteries, allowing them to expand when needed to increase blood flow to the body.
The Benefits of Almonds
Despite the many health benefits of walnuts, almonds can also hold their own. Here's what the latest scientific research says about this popular nut:
1. They can fight metabolic syndrome.
Almonds have a potential role in reducing obesity, reports a study from the City of Hope National Medical Center in California. A diet enhanced with almonds helped lower BMI, waist circumference, fat mass, and systolic blood pressure. The researchers concluded that almonds improved these markers of metabolic syndrome, a group of abnormalities that harm health and lead to diabetes.
2. They help with heart health.
3. They improve insulin sensitivity.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey also found almonds to be effective in improving insulin sensitivity in adults with pre-diabetes.
4. They could enhance gut health.
The Institute of Food Research has identified potential prebiotic properties of almonds that could help improve our digestive health by increasing levels of beneficial gut bacteria, hence boosting the body's immune system.
The Bottom Line and How to Enjoy More Nuts
An Australian study found that a diet including either walnuts or almonds helped reduce cholesterol. So given that both have a high number of benefits, it seems like you can't go wrong with either nut! (Of course, if you have an allergy to walnuts or almonds, please don't eat them.)
Walnuts and almonds can become a favorite on-the-go snack; chopped to top yogurt or oatmeal for added texture and crunch; added to vegetables and salads; or crushed to make a flavorful crust for various dishes.
Want to find out how to enjoy these nuts in recipes? Walnuts and almonds are star ingredients in many of the recipes I created for The Fat Resistance Diet.